Sink or swim. It’s an old adage I’ve heard throughout my life, sometimes when starting a new job. The adage implies survival by instinct with little or no instruction. In reality, that isn’t the best way to help new employees succeed.
Most children are taught how to swim at an early age to avoid drowning when accidently falling into the deep end of the pool. Survival is not guaranteed even if a lifeguard is on duty. It helps, but you can’t be certain that someone will see you go under the water and rescue you in time. However, the odds of survival greatly increase if you are trained well enough to at least do the dog paddle until help arrives.
That’s why companies need to teach new employees to swim before throwing them into deep corporate waters. Significant time, money and resources are invested in the hiring process to identify and secure the most qualified individual. Sufficient training is the critical next step to ensure success.
Even well seasoned new hires need a few business swimming lessons. Sales strategies that work for selling health club memberships may not work for selling computer software. HR policies and procedures that keep a company with 250 employees running like a well oiled machine may be too rigid for a business with 50 employees. The bottom line – all new employees need some level of training.
Here are eight suggestions companies should employ to help new employees swim with ease.
1. Welcoming environment – Provide a welcoming environment beginning on day one. Make introductions to key co-workers, suppliers and customers. Encourage interaction to lay the foundation for solid relationships.
2. Business culture – Explain the business culture right away. Be clear on policies such as customer service standards, internet usage, expense reimbursement provisions and the definition of a casual Friday dress code.
3. Chain of command – Outline the chain of command for decision making and what types of decisions the employee is empowered to make.
4. Train – Supply needed computer or equipment training and allow a reasonable amount of time before expecting results that meet company standards.
5. Break it down – Training sessions should last no longer than two hours. That’s about all the new information the brain can absorb at one sitting. Provide practice, reading or break time before launching a subsequent training session.
6. Deadlines – Provide a schedule of upcoming deadlines well in advance and include the name of the person responsible for each task.
7. Encourage – Check-in often and ask how it’s going. Listen to the response and offer constructive guidance.
8. Questions – Reward questions with prompt, thorough and patient answers.
I’ve been fortunate enough during my career to receive great instruction and guidance from my bosses so when those unexpected sink or swim moments came along, I knew what to do. I hope this list of suggestions helps your company create a culture that ensures success for new employees.
You likely have great ideas to help new employees swim as well. What are they? Please share in the comments section below.